Wondering what to do with your upcoming free time? Well we have some suggestions for what you should be watching, playing, reading, listening to, etc.!
Ben’s Anime Pick: Space Dandy – This sci-fi comedy series is without a doubt my favorite anime of the past decade (sorry, Demon Slayer). Space Dandy was helmed by Shin’ichirō Watanabe, the man behind Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, and it has the same level of quality despite the much zanier tone. Almost every episode is a self-contained adventure that had me constantly laughing out loud, and the show is equally effective when it decides to go for the occasional emotional beat. Series lead Dandy blends the effortless, roguish charm of Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds with the over the top machismo and unearned confidence of Johnny Bravo, creating an endlessly enjoyable protagonist who can appear super suave (and occasionally badass) despite being a total buffoon. The gorgeous visuals from beloved studio Bones, banging soundtrack, and supporting characters are stellar as well. It may lay on the fan service a little too heavily at times, but every other aspect of Space Dandy is damn-near perfect; which makes an easy binge recommendation to both anime fans and fans of comedy shows in general.
Lauren’s Book Pick: Gwent: The Art of the Witcher Card Game – As I make my way through the Witcher games (first time playing the first and second), I couldn’t help but get exponentially excited in anticipation of returning to the best game within a game that has ever existed: Gwent. Considering I haven’t stopped talking about it since The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released back in 2015, it’s safe to say I’m a bit obsessed with it. The gameplay with the cards is invigorating, the satisfaction of feeling like a strategic genius when outthinking the NPCs is disproportionate to what is actually deserved I’m sure (but whatever, I’m a genius), and the card collecting aspect is right up my “gotta catch ’em all” alley. Best of all, the illustrations on each card are beyond beautiful. Gwent: The Art of the Witcher Card Game is the perfect way to fully appreciate all the hard work that went into what is typically something I never pay much attention to: the minigames, with scaled up prints of all the cards you use to take money from hopeless foes. What’s more is that, in addition to the larger illustrations, time was taken to explore what each card represents and what the artist was trying to get across with their take on each subject. Seriously, if you love Gwent as much as I do, or just the world of the Witcher on the whole, this is a must have book.
Ben’s Movie Pick: Shutter (2004) – Despite this Thai horror film’s familiar premise, Shutter is an unnerving and often downright terrifying experience. I started it up late at night, and stopped myself about half an hour into it to ensure I’d still be able to fall sleep, and it’s been years since a horror flick has had that effect on me. I went into this film on my brother’s recommendation, and he told me to go in blind, even without reading a synopsis, which was definitely a good call on his part. That’s why I won’t spoil anything for you here. All I’ll say is this: Shutter is a must-see for any and all horror acolytes.
Lauren’s Music Pick: The Bloodborne Soundtrack – Whether you’re a one time Bloodborne player who barely scratched the surface of Yharnam, or so obsessed with that Hunter life that your right thigh is all marked up with lore injection marks, one thing we can all agree on is Bloodborne has an epic soundtrack. Admittedly I didn’t really notice when playing the game myself; I blame the stress levels. And the countless hours I spent grinding/farming away were often accompanied by various podcast episodes to keep my mind from chanting “get good get good get good.” But now that I am watching Gab Smolders destroy the game on her YouTube channel, I can appreciate what I didn’t before. Honestly I can only describe the soundtrack as epic, with a scope and gothic sound that will fill every nook and cranny of the Healing Church with its horror leaning slashes across the belly of the stringed instruments, the concussive percussion and belting organ strikes, the ethereal wails and screams of the choir. It’s a mood. And it continues on into the soundtrack for the DLC, The Old Hunters. If I had to choose, I’d say my favorite songs are a part of this smaller collection. At a little past 2:30 into “Ludwig, the Holy Blade” the song takes this sweeping turn that throws me right into the middle of some grand masquerade ball that the Phantom of the Opera is just dying to attend, which fits perfectly with the dance each boss fight demands of you. My love of this turn is only matched by the sadness that hits around 3:00 minutes into “Laurence, the First Vicar.” Seriously, this soundtrack gives me life. Blood soaked hats off to everyone involved.
Lauren’s Music Pick: Julien Baker’s “Tokyo” and “Sucker Punch” – If you read the co-review from me and Jon about the Boygenius concert, then you’re well aware that one of us knows how to write about music, and the other one is me. Yes, I know I just wrote a bulbous paragraph about the Bloodborne soundtrack, but that’s because I have a ridiculous number of hours of gameplay to fall back on and draw inspiration from. Whereas with songs like Julien Bakers, well… I just have my feelings, and feelings are hard. And interpreting those of a poet generally reaches much further than I am capable of following. All I know is her songs make me feel all the things – from sadness to hopelessness to longing to inadequacy to every other feeling I love to wallow in. Oh, and anger at myself for taking months to realize these songs even existed.
Ben’s TV Pick: Castle Rock – Castle Rock‘s first season serves as a strong, scary beginning to the Steven King multiverse anthology series, and its second season is even better. Ranging from single-sentence references to the likes of Cujo in season one to having Annie freakin’ Wilkes (portrayed by Lizzy Caplan, who’s performance nearly rivals Kathy Bates’ legendary take on the Misery villain) as a lead character in season two, Castle Rock has something for all kinds of fans of Stephen King’s novels and their adaptations. That’s not to say that people who don’t know the vast lore of every novel of King’s are out of luck though, as the show doesn’t expect you to know everything. Both seasons weave tales of suspense and terror for the regular viewer, and have a few extra nods to fans of the author, his books, and the films and shows they inspired. If you’re looking for a new horror series – other than these – give Castle Rock a shot.
So what do you think about these picks? Are you shocked that Lauren actually provided more than one recommendation for once? What content did we miss over the past two weeks while we were spending time with these? Be sure to leave a comment below letting us know about everything (both current and simply new to you) you’ve been consuming lately!
And while you’re here, be sure to check some of the site’s other recent content: Grant’s favorite music of 2019 list, part 1 of Zac’s top 100 films of the decade list, Ben’s review of The Grudge (2020), Lauren’s review of Stephen King’s book The Outsider, and our podcast episodes on Knives Out, a return trip to Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, and the first season of HBO’s Watchmen.